Out of Print

By Josh Eliot

 

As I grow older, I get more nostalgic about experiences from my past. It’s natural to feel this way when we see things that bring back great memories and helped form who we are. Sometimes it’s seeing a movie. When I was 15 years old, in 1977, I talked my parents into taking me to see Diane Keaton in Looking For Mr. Goodbar. A decision I’m sure my parents regretted once the subject of the movie became crystal clear. I’m sure they thought that since Tuesday Weld was also in the movie, it would be pretty tame. Not! The film started with a haunting song montage including “Don’t Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow” by Marlena Shaw and it really set the tone. The movie was a tough and gritty expose on the bar fly, one night stand dating scene in New York. I’m sure mostly anyone who is reading this blog has seen this movie at some point in their life and came away from it moved or shaken. For decades, I and hundreds of others, tried to access this movie on DVD. It was originally released on VHS and LaserDisc, but evidently by the time negotiations came around for a DVD release it was dead in the water. Various chat rooms over the last decades point to the legal issues and costly fees involving the music rights. It seems to have simply vanished. It went “out of print.”

When I saw this movie at 15, I was thrilled to see the male hustler character played perfectly by Richard Gere. The moment he danced around in his jockstrap while holding a glow in the dark knife both tantalized and terrified me. I think this might have been the first “male nudity” I ever saw in a film, unfortunately for my mother sitting right next to me. The movie’s soundtrack was filled with great tunes like “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston, “Prelude To Love,” “Try Me, I Know We Can Make It” and “Could It Be Magic” by Donna Summer and “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross. The music worked so brilliantly with the raw, realistic story, making the whole experience feel 100% real. Diane Keaton, famously known to be shy about her body and always dressing in long sleeves and a buttoned collar, had several nude scenes in the movie. She won the Academy Award the very same year for Annie Hall and you can bet your ass this role in Goodbar helped seal that win. What a film, but yeah, unfortunately I could not watch it and relive all those great memories and feelings because it was simply out of print.

 

Looking for Mr. Goodbar lobby cards

Looking for Mr. Goodbar lobby cards

 

The feeling of never seeing a movie again that you loved watching or loved working on must have been how the cast and crew felt back in the early days of porn. Before VHS, DVD and Blu-ray, the movies would show in an adult cinema then pretty much disappear. Maybe they would come back again to play as a second feature for a new release. But with the explosion of VHS on the X-rated market, suddenly all the new adult productions had a life beyond the new release stage. They would be widely available for purchase and viewings forever. That was exactly what we assumed when we were making the gay and bi porn movies back in the 1980s. There are a lot of collectors who have vast libraries both VHS and DVD. I have those collector tendencies too. I just added a new “instant favorite” autographed photo of Will Seagers to my collection. He signed a black-and-white shot from LA Tool & Die. I gave it a place of honor on my office wall just under the signed photo of Bette Davis.

 

Some of Josh's signed photos: Will Seagers, Bette Davis, Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla), Rob Cryston

Some of Josh's signed photos: Will Seagers, Bette Davis, Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla), Rob Cryston

 

I like to post trailers, clips and teasers from my library of movies for Catalina Video on YouTube and Instagram. It’s like a virtual collection, and I like the idea of letting them have some sort of permanent place in history on those channels. It seems that a new generation of worldwide gay and straight viewers really responds positively and has an appreciation for nostalgic porn clips. I thought it might be cool to post a newly cut trailer of the first movie I ever made, called Runaways, back in 1989. I used to have the VHS, which showed a young, sad-eyed twink looking through a dusty, cracked nine pane window on the box cover. Then on the DVD cover, they swapped the twink for a much hotter shot of Jake Corbin. Somewhere along the way, I loaned out that DVD and never got it back so I started searching for it online. I found the movie available on several websites with a fabulous new cover but, much to my dismay, the DVD version said “out of print” - leaving only the digital version available for download or single scene viewing. I thought, this must be a one-off. Maybe the owners of the Catalina Library sold out and will re-release it down the line? I purchased the download, cut my trailer and posted it on my Instagram and YouTube. Then it happened again with another title I was looking for and I started wondering what was going on. Why aren’t these titles available? Suddenly, I received a mailing for a major sale on most if not all of the William Higgins classics like Pizza Boy, Hot Rods, The Young and the Hung, Preppy Summer to name a few, with the title of the sale saying: “Get Them Now Before They Are OUT OF PRINT Forever.” There were also Dirk Yates and Catalina Video sections as well.

 

Runaways box covers over the years

Runaways box covers over the years

 

A little piece of my heart broke at that moment. What we always thought would be around and available on some sort of tape or disc or “newly invented format” was not to be. It became very clear to me that there would be no future restoration of these movies, there would be no re-release of these movies, there would be no “tangible,” hold-it-in-your-hand version of these movies any longer. I would have been content leaving this earth thinking that some “physical form” - complete with original movie artwork of the Catalina Library featuring John Travis, Scott Masters, Chet Thomas, Chi Chi LaRue, myself and others - would always be available. But evidently that is not to be. I get the digital thing, but it doesn’t mean I have to embrace it. I already had huge respect for the way BijouWorld treasures their films, directors and customers. The restoration costs they absorb to make their library of films the best they can be for future generations to enjoy and collect in a physical and digital form speaks volumes about their integrity. Even though the Catalina library of movies we made will not get the same “white glove” polished treatment Bijou offers to its library, I am more than content to know that the movies I looked up to and shaped me as an adult video director are being preserved.

I feel the need to have a “Happy Ending.” Everyone loves a happy ending don’t they? On October 23, 2020, the DVD version of Looking For Mr. Goodbar was finally released through LA Entertainment, an Australia-based company. Something nobody saw coming, and which a lot of collectors are anxious to own.

 

 

Bio of Josh Eliot:

At the age of 25 in 1987, Josh Eliot was hired by Catalina Video by John Travis (Brentwood Video) and Scott Masters (Nova Video). Travis trained Eliot on his style of videography and mentored him on the art of directing. Josh directed his first movie, Runaways, in 1987. By 2009 when Josh parted ways with Catalina Video, he'd produced and directed hundreds of features and won numerous awards for Best Screenplay, Videography, Editing, and Directing. He was entered into the GayVN Hall of fame in 2002. 

 

You can read Josh Eliot's previous blogs for Bijou here:

Coming out of my WET SHORTS
FRANK ROSS, The Boss
Our CALIGULA Moment
That BUTTHOLE Just Winked at Me!
DREAMLAND: The Other Place
A Salty Fuck in Saugatuck
Somebody, Call a FLUFFER!
The Late Great JOHN TRAVIS, My POWERTOOL Mentor
(Un)Easy Riders
7 Years with Colt Model MARK RUTTER
Super NOVA
Whatever Happened to NEELY O’HARA?
Is That AL PARKER In Your Photo?
DOWN BY LAW: My $1,000,000 Mistake
We Waited 8hrs for a Cum Shot... Is That a World Record?
Don't Wear "Short Shorts" on the #38 Geary to LANDS END
How Straight Are You Really?
BEHIND THE (not so) GREEN DOOR
The BOOM BOOM Room
CATCHING UP with Tom DeSimone
Everybody’s FREE to FEEL GOOD
SCANDAL at the Coral Sands Motel
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Castro Theatre
DEEP INSIDE THE CASTRO: The Midnight Sun
RSVP: 2 Weeks Working on a Gay Cruise Ship
VOYAGER of the Damned
I'M NOT A LESBIAN DIRECTOR
Diving Into SoMa/Folsom: THE FOLSOM STREET FAIR
Diving into SoMa/Folsom: A TALE OF TWO STUDS
BALL BROTH
My 1992 “Porn Set” Diary

 
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The Sears Catalog

Sears department store exterior

Sears has been dying for some time, and after its recent filing for bankruptcy, it’s self-evident: the former retail giant will be as dead as a doornail.

Many folks of my generation remember the Sears catalog, especially the Christmas Wishbook edition. In fact, Sears began as a mail order outfit only, appealing to a mostly rural America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Those isolated on homesteads could order items from a catalog; imagine the thrill of a package arriving in those days!
 

Sears Christmas Wishbook, 1964

As Americans became more citified and then suburban, Sears built department stores, and then became the main anchor in shopping malls. Now Americans with their ubiquitous automobiles could now travel to a consumer’s mecca and buy appliances for their newer homes designed to accommodate washing machines, refrigerators, and television sets.
 

Sears department store opening advertisement

Yet the catalog remained, and one of my memories as a young gayling was that catalog, and it wasn’t because of the underwear models (that dynamic arrived later). No, it was because of the home décor. I was fascinated with the living room sets Sears sold in the catalog, especially the French provincial and Early American lines. (No, I exhibited no intention at that age, even subconsciously, of becoming the clichéd gay decorator.)
 

Sears furniture in catalog, 1970s

Confined to mostly interior activities because of lack of athletic skills, I would cut up older catalogs and create my own rooms. I remember a sofa with a brown slipcover that featured prominently in my fantasy rooms, next to a ginger jar lamp. I guess I may have been going for a more lower middle class look than I had intended (think Roseanne, definitely taking place in a Sears household), but home for me equals comfort, sinking into a cushy sofa in a room softly illuminated by lamplight.
 

Ginger jar lamps

When puberty hit, I was drawn to the catalogs for another reason: the macho mustached guys wearing plaid shirts, Levis, and boots. That was the style of the time, and Sears sold “gay macho” wear because its customers were actual construction workers or even cowboys. I really like the pictures of guys posing in tight jeans and boots with clunky heels. And they were usually posing together, as clothing was sold in the catalogs based on gender. Yet the groups of good-looking, well-built guys hanging out together could produce a definite homoerotic vibe. For example, I remember one ad featuring guys leaning against a fence, that pose drawing the eye to the bulge in the jeans. I cut it out and pasted into a secret notebook.
 

Sears catalog cowboys

There’s more going on than just nostalgia for an American icon. I do find it brutally ironic that the supposed “making American great again” does not include the return of Sears, in so many ways a symbol of a time when a strong, blue-collar (and mostly white) middle class made good. But their descendants now shop at Walmart and/or Amazon, or, in some of the areas that suffered the most economically, dollar stores.

And the new generation of gaylings don’t have to stealthily cut up Sears catalogs to express forbidden fantasies. They can use phone apps, but most significantly, they don’t have to hide their artistic and sexual interests in a world where girls were girls and men were men. Yet I still feel like the effort involved in cutting up those catalogs stimulated creativity. I had to work for my fun. And part of the fun was the work involved in attaining it.
 

Sears catalog '70s fashion
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Featured

Y M C A (with hand motions)

 

In the 1970s, a youngish housewife in the west suburbs of Chicago dances to this tune on the green shag carpet. She gets her toddler to do it, swinging him by the arms. Her high school age son looks on with a combination of horror and embarrassment.

More than 40 years later, at her grandson's bar mitzvah in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Bubby Ruth Goldstein (known for her get up and go) takes over the dance floor from her hip hop loving grandson and his friends when the band, in an effort to get everyone involved (an exhausting but necessary requirement for such functions), tries the nostalgia trick. It works.

Has this song become only a nostalgic camp crowd pleaser? Perhaps. I know the current Village People perform primarily on the nostalgia circuit (I saw them at gay Halsted Market Days and at “straight” Taste of Chicago because these popular commercialized festivals attract multiple ages and they need the “older crowd” of boomers with the spending power these days).

But there's a history behind and after it which, despite the campy appeal of the piece, is quite interesting because what we normally seem to think is true about this song ain't necessarily so.

According to Felipe Rose, the group's founder in an interview with the Huffington Post, "I don't think Jacques' intent (Jacques Morali, the original producer of the group) was, 'Oh, I'm just going to put together a group for the gay audience,'" says group member Eric Anzalone (the biker). "He knew the music industry and he knew if he had a hit in the clubs -- which, in the '70s, the gay, the Latin clubs -- that was the place to be." Thus, perhaps, the gay subtext was not meant originally.

 

But then, also according to the Huffington Post, explaining to Rose that the controversy was actually about whether Victor Willis (one of the original members, no longer peforming with group, the leather guy) was against it being used as a gay rights anthem, and not about whether he was against Russia using it at the Sochi Olympics, Willis said, "To the band? Well first of all, the song was never written about anything to do with gay... "It was just a filler song, based on the ex-producer seeing the YMCA sign during lunch and asking us what it meant. Sure, there was ambiguity and they were using a double entendre, but it was really just supposed to be one more song to fill out the album."


From what I have heard (not seen) about many YMCAs in general (one friend told me all one had to do was leave your bedroom door open as a signal for sex), one could argue that there was no way getting around a gay subtext.

I also found out that the famous hand motions came from the kids on Dick Clark's famous American Bandstand, according to Ray Simpson, the cop in the group. He said, "The kids from Dick Clark's 'American Bandstand' actually started the hand motions because we weren't smart enough to come up with that...We decided that was good, let's put it in the show."

I think there's more to this song than camp and nostalgia. Gay sex at the Young Men's Christian, yes Christian Association? Enough said. I just find it interesting that in addition to this irony, the ladies love it too. I haven't yet told my mom (the woman I refer to the first paragraph) that she was dancing to what is now a gay anthem of liberation. Perhaps she needed to feel, however vicariously, liberation as well in those tumultuous seventies.

 

Now, one reader's amazing response to this bog post:

 

Enjoyed the YMCA feature. A few points though - Willis was the original cop (the much missed, gorgeous (& straight) Glenn Hughes was the Leatherman). Ray Simpson replaced Willis as cop when he left prior to Can't Stop The Music.  The "classic" VP lineup didn't come together until their second album, Macho Man.  Only Willis and Felipe Rose are on the first album.  As for them not being put together for a gay audience - that seems more than a little revisionist not to mention a tad disingenuous.  Check out the cover of the first album (attached) and see if you think there's anything remotely veiled about it!  The song list for the album was San Francisco ("Folsom Street on the way to Polk and Castro" - what were those famous for?), In Hollywood, Fire Island (who's favourite summer resort?) and Village People as in Greenwich Village, famous in the 70s because...?  Back in '77 I was a 16 year old disco boy and I well remember the way they not-so-subtley repositioned themselves when they gained mass fame and success. (I still have many of the cuttings from the UK press back then).

 

The second album, with Macho Man, I Am What I Am (not THAT version) and Key West was still pretty out there too!

 

As the other straight man in the group I guess Willis (who also wrote many of their lyrics) might feel embarassed about the gay aspect, though it clearly didn't concern him too much at the time.  Quite why Felipe Rose should come out with such nonsense is another matter.  Given how far the acceptance of gay people and their rights has come on since then it seems wierd to spout that garbage now. Ah well!

 

Fun to read nonetheless, just wanted to set the record straight (so to speak).

 
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